Better known as Thailand’s White Temple, Wat Rong Khun is well-known and popular among visitors to the Chiang Rai Province. Its unique design is a mixture of both contemporary art and traditional Buddhist motifs with intricate carvings in its all-white structure.
In early May 2014, a massive earthquake damaged much of the temple, and engineers then vowed to rebuild and restore the 1997 structure to its original splendor. As a result of the damage, however, visitors to this historic religious site can only enter a handful of the buildings. Others can only be viewed and photographed from the outside, but the ornate details and meticulously placed tiles still make this a destination despite current repairs. The temple’s ornate designs range from dragons and skulls to dozens of hands reaching up out of the ground.
Walking up to the temple, visitors cross a bridge symbolizing the journey from the cycle of life to the enlightenment of Buddha. The temple’s white color and inlaid mirrored glass are said to represent the purity of Buddha and are surreal in nature, with every detail carrying deep religious symbolism. The grounds are dotted with various statues and sculptures, and inside are murals depicting modern figures such as superheroes and film stars.
The wat is located about eight miles south of Chiang Rai off Asia Highway 1 on the left-hand side of the road. It is open from 8 a.m to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and until 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free.